Teton Gravity focuses its 16mm on ‘Tangerine Dream’
VAIL – While filming athletes dropping 100-foot cliffs and outrunning avalanches, Teton Gravity Research doesn’t go through as much camera equipment as one might think.
Ski equipment is another story.There are about 20 seconds in “Tangerine Dream,” Teton Gravity (TGR)’s new film, where a head cam is eating up a machine-gun’s worth of powder shots. Suddenly, the skier’s line down the steep face of rock drops and cornices gets a little less smooth, then completely erratic, and then the head cam goes all-white and all-black.”We have a good insurance policy,” said Steve Jones, who, along with his brother, Todd, and Dirk Collins, produced their first TGR film 10 years ago after raising enough money for camera equipment and travel by working on fishing boats in Alaska.”It’s not as many as you would expect,” Jones said of broken cameras. “The 16mms are super durable, they really take a beating. The helmet cams go down, but once you clean the snow out of them, they’re usually OK. We see a whole lot of broken skis.”It’s difficult to weave a theme into a film that’s inevitably upstaged by its own action, but the namesake of “Tangerine Dream” is a beat-up pick up truck that the TGR crew and athletes have traveled in from mountain to mountain even before their films were released. Nevermind that most of their traveling now is done in swanky Jeeps (ahhh, sponsorship), but for nostalgia’s sake, the film does have a couple of classic minutes of 15 freestyle skiers loaded into the back of the ugly orange machine.Of course, this is all easily forgotten the minute big mountain legend Jeremy Jones drops off of a needle-like peak in Alaska into what looks like a vertical wall of snow, or when 14-year-old Kye Peterson spends what seems to be a full minute in the air as he clears the Pyramid Gap in Utah’s Little Cottonwood. Clearly the tangerine mobile can’t take the rowdy pack of adrenaline junkies to places like Turkey, where the group consorts with locals, many of whom look a bit bewildered in their traditional hats and shawls surrounded by goggle and down-suit sporting skiers high-fiving each other.Riffraff or not, you have to envy the lifestyle these guys have. But they deserve it because it’s clear they absolutely love every minute of it.And hats off to the TGR founders for wiping the salmon slime off their sleeves and embarking on this lifestyle, which has gone from making low-budget ski videos with a couple of cameras to taking trips to the gnarliest peaks in the world with specialty filming equipment strapped to helicopters.Dealing with gravity”After 10 years, a lot of (making each new film more interesting than the last) is being more creative with angles, upgrading equipment and using technological advancements,” Jones said. “With the cinematographers, they’ve been the same group since the beginning. The athletes always push it more and more. I don’t think they’re necessarily taking more risks, but as time goes on, they all progress in how you see it.”Nowadays, there’s no shortage of films featuring guys and girls hurling themselves down 55-degree peaks and doing backflips off of bare cliffs with skis on while waiting until the last minute to unlatch their base-jumping parachutes. “Tangerine Dream” is no exception. The TGR boys have taken their gravity research elsewhere in the last 10 years. They and are now doing a Showtime series featuring all matter of gravity testing – mountain biking, surfing, etc., and also have segments on NBC sports. Still, the cornerstone of the company is the ski movie.”We’ll still make the movie every year,” Jones said. “It’s got that homespun, grassroots feel to it and to a large degree, it’s our favorite thing.”Plus, there’s the fact that the TGR office is within walking distance of the shuttle to Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Jones, a transplant from Cape Cod, Mass., where he grew up “eating blue ice,” says he averages about 100 days on the mountain. The goal of his films, regardless of where they’re shot, how many skis are broken or their supposed “theme” is to make people want to ski.”For us to maintain a lifestyle is how it started,” Jones said. “Hopefully, we inspire people to get excited and go out and ski.”Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado